Wednesday, May 31, 2017


I love the Gospel of Grace. He has freed me from so much that had kept me in bondage. However, this Gospel also makes demands, as Paul had written to Titus:

·       For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14; NIV)

This Gospel of Grace not only frees us from the penalty of sin, but it also frees us from the life of sin. “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness.” Why? Because Jesus redeemed us “from all wickedness and to purify” us so that we would be “eager to do what is good!” Salvation is a package-deal. It starts with God’s free gift, but it also requires our participation (Philippians 2:12-13).

This means that we must preach both God’s grace and also our necessary response to this grace. Therefore, Paul instructed Titus to remind the brethren from where they had come and to where they are going:

·       At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

We had been sin’s captives, blinded by its power, but we have been made alive and freed from the absolute captivity of sin (2 Timothy 2:26). However, the temptations of sin are still very present and alluring (Romans 7; Galatians 5:17). Therefore, we have to struggle against them.

In the next verse, Paul reminded Titus why it is so important to rehearse these truths:

·       This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:8)

The truths of the Gospel should motivate us to do the good and bear the fruits of the
Spirit. Those who don’t practice obedience are self-condemned:

·       Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

However, this raises a confusing but important question:

·       If salvation is a free gift, we shouldn’t have to strive or work to keep it. Gifts are not loans. While loans are conditional, gifts are not. However, it seems that those who do not do what Scripture requires are self-condemned (lost, damned). How then can salvation be a gift?

Salvation is explicitly called a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 4:10; Hebrews 6:4) and many other verses express this same idea but in different ways (Romans 3:25-28). But yet, those who walk in disobedience are “self-condemned.”

How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction? God’s grace insures that we will bear the fruit of the Spirit, His fruit! If we have His free gift, our obedience and continuation in the faith is guaranteed by our Lord. Because of this, Paul gave God the credit even for his strenuous labors:

·       But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Elsewhere, Paul described the generosity of the Macedonian churches as “the grace that God has given”:

·       And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

How can God’s grace, His free gift, and the need for our obedience co-exist? Doesn’t the one exclude the other? Not according to Scripture! They should and must work together. If we have God’s gift of faith/trust, we will do what He tells us to do. Our obedience is inseparable from the gift. If I trust my doctor, I will take the pills he has directed me to take. If I don’t attempt to take them, it means that I don’t really trust him. Likewise, if we truly trust God, we will do what He tells us to do, and when we fail, we will confess our sins, and He will forgive us.

I know that this is perplexing. However, this is the Christian life. It is also the character of Scripture. Scripture is the product of human work. It bears our vocabulary, experiences, and even our emotions, sometimes even accusations against God, which we often find in the Psalms. And yet, even more so, it is fully the Word and product of God (1 Peter 1:1-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thess. 2:13). Consequently, even the human endeavor of writing Scripture is an expression of the grace of God. You go figure; I can’t!

In conclusion, grace does not let us off the hook. We still must strive forward, but, as we do, we trust that God will direct our steps and make them fruitful.

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